Heightens Women's Arthritis risk
smokers have nearly twice the risk of developing early-onset rheumatoid
arthritis as their non-smoking counterparts, researchers say.
In a way,
this is good news, because ``smoking is a potentially modifiable
risk factor,'' according to Dr. Kenneth Saag, from the University
of Alabama, in Birmingham. ``We can tell people that if they stop
smoking, it may lower their risk.''
with co-authors, studied the health records of more than 30,000
women, ages 55 to 69, who were enrolled in the Iowa Women's Health
Study beginning in 1986. The study was presented this week at
a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.
found current smokers had a nearly two-fold increase in the risk
of developing early-onset rheumatoid arthritis compared to those
who never smoked. Former smokers also had a slightly higher risk
than non-smokers, but those women who had stopped smoking at least
10 years prior to the start of the study did not have an increased
risk, Saag said .
are not sure what it is about smoking that increases a woman's rheumatoid
arthritis risk. ``It's a complex phenomenon,'' he said. ``There
are interactions with a woman's immune system that may be involved,
and also interactions with estrogen. Smoking may lower estrogen
levels.'' He noted that smoking also appears to raise the body's
level of rheumatoid factor, which is generally found in patients
with more severe arthritis.
In other research, scientists have tried to isolate a variant gene
SLC6A3-9 responsible for controlling the addictive properties of
cigarette smoking.The SLC6A3-9 gene influences the personality traits
of an individual, which makes them start or stop smoking.